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"This portrait is made from a photograph taken during 
the campaign of 1858. Photography was then in its 
infancy, and Mr. Lincoln is reported to have said this 
was the first photograph for which he ever sat." 





A. C. McCLURG & CO. 

Copyright, 1901, by Isaac N. Phillipi 

Copyright, 1910 
A. C. McClcrg & Co. 
Published Feb. 12, 1910 


*Tiet us have faith that right makes 
might, and in that faith let us, to the end, 
dare to do our duty as we understand it." 
— Lincoln 's Speech at Cooper Institute, New TorJc. 


XT is proper, I think, to say to the reader 
^ that what is here printed is, with slight 
corrections and enlargements, identical with 
an address which I prepared ten years or 
more ago. The address was delivered before 
several Illinois audiences— among others, be- 
fore the faculty and students of the Uni- 
versity of Illinois at Urbana. The language 
used is, therefore, less impersonal than would 
be proper in a monograph written for publi- 
cation. I have, however, thought best not to 
change the form of its presentation, but let 
it go into print substantially as delivered. 

T ]sr p 

Bloomington, III., • 

January 15, 1910. 


WHEN Abraham Lincoln, 
after having been 
named for President, 
was questioned by a 
campaign biographer as to his early 
life, he very pathetically said the 
whole story might be told in a 
single line of Gray's ''Elegy," — 
" The short and simple annals of the poor," 

All the world has now learned that 
the man who spoke thus modestly 
of himself was born in the State of 
Kentucky on the twelfth day of 
February, 1809. His cradle, if he 
ever had one, stood upon the dirt 
floor of a rude log hut; above it was 
a clap-board roof; about it was that 
kind of superstition which an iso- 



lated people, full of rude elemental 
force, is apt to manifest, and that 
kind of poverty which, in a new 
and free country, casts no shadow 
of degradation, for it is not the ab- 
sence of goods but the invidious 
and blighting contrast of conditions 
which constitutes real poverty. This 
boy, too, was surrounded by people 
who were profoundly ignorant of 
the world and of the ways of men, 
and almost as profoundly ignorant 
of all bookish learning. It is cer- 
tain that the humblest child in the 
whole country might now, within 
the limits of a single year, have the 
benefit of a far better schooling 
than was accessible to Lincoln in 
the time covering all the years of 
his minority. His surroundings 



from birth to manhood remained 
practically unchanged, and, al- 
though his roving father made in 
that time something more than the 
number of removes which Poor 
Richard deemed "equal to one 
fire," there is no evidence that in 
the first twenty -one years of his 
life Abraham Lincoln met with any 
personal example, or fell under 
any social influence, which would 
ordinarily be expected to quicken 
his mind, arouse his hope, or in- 
spire his ambition. 

^T^HE rise of one of the greatest 
statesmen of history from an 
environment apparently so luck- 
less, naturally awakens intense in- 
terest and even enthusiasm. But 



the phenomenon is less wonderful 
than it seems. Had Lincoln arisen 
from out the slums of a great city, 
or even from the social opulence 
and pampered ease of a palace at 
Newport, to the intellectual and 
moral plane where the assassin's 
bullet found him, the case would 
be more truly wonderful than it 
is. Though of obscure parentage, 
Abraham Lincoln was, in breeding, 
no mongrel. In spite of the indus- 
trious muck-rakes of shameless so- 
called biographers, it is now known 
that, both through his father and 
his mother, this boy received rich 
strains of honest English blood — 
blood which had been strengthened 
and sweetened on its course 
through the veins of generations of 


sturdy American pioneers. He 
lived with Nature and learned of 
her. He toiled, but his toil was 
never hopeless and degrading. His 
feet were upon the earth, but the 
stars, shining in perennial beauty, 
were ever above him to inspire con- 
templation. He heard the song of 
the thrush and the carol of the lark. 
He watched the sun in its course. 
He knew the dim paths of the 
forest, and his soul was awed by 
the power of the storm. Out from 
the heart of Nature's solitudes he 
brought all the elements of high 
success: namely, a good heart, a 
clear head, and a strong body; and 
these factors, under the stimulating 
influence of free institutions, at 
length wrought in the rude back- 



woodsman a wonderful personal 
transfiguration, the successive 
stages of which my plan does not 
permit me to trace. 

At the day of his death Lincoln's 
reputation had already filled the 
world, and the intense popular af- 
fection for his memory, which still 
constantly grows, although its sub- 
ject has been for nearly half a cen- 
tury in his tomb, may be regarded 
as the sure sign of one of those 
transcendent fames such as popular 
favor confers scarcely once in a 

A S a politician Abraham Lincoln 

was in breadth and sincerity 

the superior, and in shrewdness 

and success the full equal, of 



Thomas Jefferson; yet he was much 
more than a politician. No man of 
his age wrote more effective Eng- 
lish than he; yet it is not as a 
rhetorician that Americans revere 
him. His keenness of humor and 
aptness of anecdote were never sur- 
passed by any public man; yet 
history sternly refuses to regard 
Abraham Lincoln as a jester. He 
was a patriot, high and true; but 
patriotism does not distinguish 
him, for in his day many others 
were also patriots, giving even life 
to the cause. He was a statesman 
of prodigious breadth and grasp 
— fearless, imperturbable, self-re- 
liant — and when he judged prin- 
ciple to be at stake, absolutely 
immovable ; yet even the high term 


N C O L N 

"statesman" does not express 
quite the full measure of Lincoln, 
or of Lincoln's fame. To all these 
elements he united a personality 
the most striking, the most singu- 
lar, and the most original which is 
met with in history, and beneath 
it all lay the unfathomable mystery 
of a human soul. In the depths of 
that rugged and pathetic face were 
the signs of a spirit that in its 
highest moments communed with 
itself and walked alone, — 

"His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." 

pUBLIC life has its illusions and 
fame has its counterfeits. The 
relative importance of contempo- 
rary historic characters, like the 
relative height and size of adjacent 



mountains, is not fully known until 
the whole group is seen from a dis- 
tance. The vain and noisy little 
man of each period "struts and 
frets his hour upon the stage" with 
such a deal of pomposity and show, 
that he appears to his undiscrimi- 
nating contemporaries quite as im- 
portant as the real makers of 
history. Like the "mother frog" 
in the fable, he tries with breath 
alone to puff himself up to a colos- 
sal stature, and not unfrequently, 
like the frog, collapses in the 

True greatness is the consecra- 
tion of either great talents or great 
character to the service of man- 
kind. When we read the story of 
a truly great life we learn of 



high purposes pursued by effective 
methods; we learn of a lofty devo- 
tion to truth, of supreme faith in 
the right, of heroic self-sacrifice ; in 
short, we learn of a supreme strug- 
gle of genius in the service of man- 
kind. Then, too, a great cause is 
necessary to a great public career. 
Mere feats of intellectual agility 
send no man's name to the Pan- 
theon. There may, for aught I 
know, be "mute, inglorious Mil- 
tons" in this world, but so long as 
they are mute they are inefficient. 
During several years Lincoln filled 
the public eye. He had a cause, 
and directly in proportion to the 
greatness of that cause was his ca- 
reer great. That cause measures 
Lincoln's public career, but it does 



not completely measure Lincoln. 
After the voluminous biographies 
have all been read; after the gar- 
rulous "old settler," who never so 
much as suspected the greatness of 
the man in his lifetime, has related 
his apochryphal "recollections," 
and told his mythical anecdotes — 
always exaggerating his own famil- 
iar relations with Lincoln — we feel 
that there is a Lincoln still unre- 
vealed who is now beginning to 
fade away. It is this Lincoln whom 
I shall endeavor to make known in 
this brief study. I shall speak of 
Lincoln in his. great character as 
a statesman, and not as a gawk, a 
buffoon, or a yarn -spinner. 



T T is necessary, however, that in 
an appreciative study of Lin- 
coln we take a comprehensive view 
of his work. We must note that 
which had preceded him as well as 
that which immediately surrounded 
him. I must ask you to bear with 
me, therefore, while I go back a 
little to find the historic back- 
ground of our picture. 

There was in the last century a 
''critical period" of American his- 
tory, which Mr. Fiske places be- 
tween the surrender of Cornwallis 
and the adoption of the Federal 
Constitution. This period was 
"critical" for the reason that in 
that time it was painfully uncertain 
whether a permanent union could 
ever be formed of the xlmerican 



States. The upheaval of the Revo- 
lution had unsettled the conserva- 
tive force of the American mind, 
and more follies than would have 
re-filled Pandora's box a hundred 
times had broken out in all the 
American colonies — follies which 
in their consequences threatened to 
become even worse than ''taxation 
without representation. ' ' 

Revolutions are not often well- 
adapted to the training of states- 
men. A very good revolutionary 
patriot may be only a destruction- 
ist, and destructionists are always 
plenty and cheap. The hand that 
wrote the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence was not the hand to frame 
the Federal Constitution. Samuel 
Adams knew far better how to 



knock down King George than how 
to set up George Washington, first 
President of a great nation. Pat- 
rick Henry could shout in a tem- 
pest of eloquence, ' ' Give me liberty 
or give me death!" but he was 
scarcely less eloquent in resist- 
ing the formation of the Federal 
Union; while James Monroe, the 
reputed author of the "Monroe 
Doctrine," was very sure the adop- 
tion of the Federal Constitution 
would endanger, if not entirely de- 
stroy, the people's liberties. 

In this critical period two con- 
flicting theories of government 
contended for mastery in the Amer- 
ican colonies. One side, led by 
Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, 
Madison, Jay, Marshall, and their 



co-workers, realized the supreme 
importance of a strong central au- 
thority — a firm union of the States 
under one stable government. 
With the true national instinct 
they appealed earnestly to the pa- 
triotism and good sense of their 
fellow-citizens. By bitter experi- 
ence they knew the evils of a many- 
headed confederacy of weak and 
discordant States, which, if not 
fused together, they knew would 
waste all their energies in jealous 
bickerings with each other, pre- 
senting to the nations of the world 
no broad frontage of sovereignty 
and power. They knew a weak 
government would produce confu- 
sion at home and breed contempt 
abroad, and, worse than all, would 



constantly invite foreign alliance 
and intervention, to the final de- 
struction of that independence 
which had been purchased with so 
much treasure and blood. The old 
Federalists garnered and preserved 
the fruits of the American Revolu- 
tion. They believed that so long as 
a government is "of the people" 
and *'by the people" it will not 
cease to be also ^^for the people." 
The outcry of that day against 
''consolidated government," with 
which ambitious demagogues were 
frightening the ignorant, did not 
alarm the old Federalists, who 
were the true friends of the people 
and the real Republicans of their 

Such was the character of the 



party which bore us through the 
critical period of our early history, 
leaving us as a legacy the Federal 
Union, which Lincoln, with the 
help of the Union army, saved. 

Opposed to the Federalists, how- 
ever, was another party of polit- 
ical philosophers, who, in their 
dread of centralization, opposed 
the adoption of the Federal Con- 
stitution. In the days of war they 
had been good destroyers, but they 
were not equally good as builders. 
The wrongs they had suffered un- 
der King George not unnaturally 
led them to distrust all forms of 
government, hence centralization 
meant to them only a renewal of 
despotism. They thought the peo- 
ple's only safeguard lay in the 



weakness of the central govern- 

That was an age in which the in- 
fection of "red republicanism" was 
abroad in the world. Rousseau 
had dreamed intoxicating and 
contagious dreams. Voltaire had 
philosophized and sneered. The 
mad re -action against long -abused 
power had come, and in France the 
chasm was already opening to en- 
gulf the monstrosities of ages. 
Alexander Hamilton's wise saying 
that ''the vigor of government is 
essential to the security of liberty, ' ' 
was then, as a consequence, far less 
appreciated than it is to-day. 

In 1787, however, the country 
was prostrate and the tottering old 
Confederation was powerless to 



give relief. Riot, repudiation, and 
anarchy were in the very air. As 
a choice of evils the people at last, 
with many misgivings, accepted the 
Union. But it was power grudg- 
ingly given, and repented by many 
of the rampant revolutionists of 
that day almost as quickly as 

The heresy of 1787, that the best 
government is the weakest govern- 
ment, and that whatever govern- 
ment we have should be distrusted 
by the people and hampered as 
much as possible in its action, in 
order to insure the liberty of the 
individual, survived in the form of 
"State sovereignty" to produce in- 
finite mischief during full three- 
quarters of a century of our sub- 



sequent history. Attempts were 
made, after the Constitution was 
adopted, to practically nullify it by 
what was called ''strict construc- 
tion." The theory was held, that 
each State of the Union had the 
right to judge for itself what pow- 
ers were conferred by the Constitu- 
tion upon the national government. 
Such was, in e:ffect, the doctrine of 
the ''Virginia and Kentucky Reso- 
lutions," and it was a doctrine sin- 
cerely advocated in that day by 
many men who were really at- 
tached to the cause of civil liberty, 
but who seemed not to know the 
means by which, alone, can liberty 
be insured.* 

* Thomas Jefferson lived and died in the be- 
lief that each State of the Union was a soTereign 
nation, and that these several nations had, bj 



Later, the motives of the foes of 
nationality changed. The slavery 
question arose, and '^ strict con- 
struction" and "State rights" — 
at first largely speculative political 
doctrines — became the pretext for 
the slave power's frantic effort to 
fortify and intrench slavery. Ac- 
cordingly, in 1861, the old slavoc- 
racy of the South, after long 
threats, resolved to trample down 

adopting the Constitution, formed a compact — a 
sort of treaty — -which each of the States had a 
right to construe for itself, there being no com- 
mon judicial power over them. On April 8, 1826, 
less than three months before he died, Jeffer- 
son wrote a letter — being the last but four of 
those preserved in his Works — in which letter he 
said: " I think with you, also, that the Consti- 
tution of the United States is a compact of inde- 
pendent nations, subject to the rules acknowledged 
in similar cases, as well that of amendment pro- 
vided within itself, as, in case of abuse, the justly 
dreaded but unavoidable ultimo ratio gentium." 
— Jefferson's Works (Putnam), col, 10, p. 385. 



the government of George Wash- 
ington and the grand old Federal- 
ists, and upon its ruins to erect a 
slave confederacy. And then it was 
that the Union army, called into 
being by Abraham Lincoln and act- 
ing under his sagacious policy, met 
and slew together both slavery and 
State sovereignty. In the fierce 
arbitrament of war, and through 
the terrific adjudication of force 
and blood, the Federal Constitu- 
tion at length received its final and 
authoritative construction. 

T THUS recapitulate facts well 
known merely to show that in 
the constitutional development of 
the nation Abraham Lincoln stands 
in line of direct succession from 


I. I N C O L TV 

those great constructive statesmen 
who formed and set in operation 
the government of the United 
States. He finished their great 
work. In the highest sense he was 
himself a constructive statesman. 
He was a conservative, a saviom^ 
— not a destroyer. He stands pre- 
eminently for law and order, for 
the conservation of popular insti- 
tutions, for human rights secured 
and enforced — not by somebody's 
uncertain impulse, but guaranteed 
by inexorable public law. 

Back of Lincoln we see, among 
many others, Washington, Madi- 
son, Franklin, Gouverneur Morris, 
John Jay, Robert Morris, and that 
other colossus of American states- 
manship, Alexander Hamilton. But 



between these men and Lincoln 
were many others conspicuous for 
great services rendered to the same 
great cause. John Marshall, of 
Virginia, statesman and judge — 
belonging in a degree to both pe- 
riods — who for thirty-four years, 
as head of the Federal judiciary, 
read "between the lines" of the 
Constitution, and found there the 
"implied powers" by the exercise 
of which Lincoln was at length able 
to save the Union; Andrew Jack- 
son, who laid low beneath the man- 
date of his imperious will the first 
outbreak against national sover- 
eignty, arousing by his appeal to 
the people of South Carolina a na- 
tional enthusiasm which had not 
yet spent itself when Lincoln de- 



livered his First Inaugural ; Henry 
Clay, the greatest of parliamentary 
leaders, who applied his rare pow- 
ers to the healing expedient of com- 
promise, thus relieving the strain 
until the cement of the Union had 
time to set and become firm; Daniel 
Webster, the invincible defender 
of the Constitution, who in debate 
combined the strength of Goliath 
and the skill of David, overwhelm- 
ing the enemies of the Union with 
torrents of logic and eloquence; 
Thomas H. Benton, the sturdy and 
truculent old patriot, himself rep- 
resenting a slave State, whose 
every heart-throb was true to the 
nation he served — all these great 
nationalists, and many others 
equally devoted though perhaps 



less conspicuous, had consecrated 
themselves to the maintenance of 
the union of the States. But to 
Abraham Lincoln, among them all, 
it was given to act and suffer in the 
fierce heat and light of terrific and 
final conflict. From the cross of 
national redemption whereon he 
agonized, was at length borne away 
forever the great sin of disunion, 
which like a malignant spirit had 
so long rent our fair land. 

"D UT the field of Lincoln's states- 
manship embraced more than 
a mere constitutional doctrine. The 
destruction of the Union as a polit- 
ical end, without an ulterior object 
in view, would, in 1861, have been 
sheer madness, however doubtful 



the policy of its original formation 
might have seemed to some of the 
colonists. In 1860 the nation had 
demonstrated its right to live, and 
but for the slave interest the doc- 
trine of State sovereignty would 
have died with the generation that 
wrote and adopted the ''Virginia 
and Kentucky Resolutions." It 
was because the Union had proved 
less subservient to the slave inter- 
est than was desired, that the 
South, by a convenient application 
of this doctrine of State rights, 
sought to disrupt the Union and 
set up a distinctive slave confed- 
eracy. The constitutional question 
and the slavery question were thus 
thrown together into the crucible 
of war. 


I. I N C O L N 

The Republicans, in 1860, had 
no purpose to abolish slavery, nor 
was it the then -avowed principles 
of that party which slaveholders 
feared. Far more ominous than the 
platform of any political party was 
the moral sentiment of the civilized 
world which the South saw every- 
where rising against her favorite 
institution. The fact that ''Uncle 
Tom's Cabin" found millions of 
eager readers, both in Europe and 
America, was to Southern states- 
men far more disquieting than any 
party declaration. Adverse public 
opinion — that universal solvent of 
modem democracy — threatened to 
dissolve the very rock upon which 
the industrial and social institu- 
tions of the South had been built. 



The high falsetto which a few abo- 
litionists were singing would have 
excited only contempt in the South 
but for the contagion which, in 
spite of all Northern assurances, 
was known to be in that cry. The 
South knew abolition fire was fall- 
ing upon tinder, not only all over 
the North but all over the world; 
and, morals aside, there was real 
wisdom in the plan of forming a 
new government, of which slavery 
should be the corner stone. An in- 
stitution like slavery must be the 
corner stone or nothing. 

Lincoln was not less opposed to 
slavery on moral grounds than any 
man in the nation, but when he de- 
clared he had no constitutional 
power, and therefore no purpose, to 



interfere with slavery in the South- 
ern States, he was perfectly con- 
scientious. When the War came 
on, Lincoln ceased to speak of slav- 
ery and spoke only of the Union. 
He always seized upon the largest 
fact. He knew, if the old abolition- 
ists did not, that national preserva- 
tion was the real stake in that con- 
test. As Chief Executive he right- 
ly disclaimed jurisdiction over slav- 
ery in time of peace, but I think he 
never doubted his right, as Com- 
mander-in-chief of the Army and 
Navy, to save the Union by any 
means fitting and necessary to ac- 
complish that end — even to the de- 
struction of slavery by an execu- 
tive proclamation. 

The idea of emancipation seemed 



to grow upon Lincoln through the 
early months of 1862, and by mid- 
summer of that year his course was 
determined. Starting out only to 
preserve the Union, Lincoln, by 
force of circumstances and through 
the inexorable logic of events, be- 
came the liberator of a race. He 
was the most modest of men, and 
distinctlj^ disclaimed any personal 
credit for emancipation. He wrote, 
in April, 1864, "I claim not to have 
controlled events, but confess plain- 
ly that events have controlled me." 
This was honest and it was true, for 
in the stress of war, events, under 
a popular government, must to a 
large extent control everybody. In 
the same letter, further discussing 
the credit for emancipation, he rev- 



erently said, *'God alone can claim 

Exactly one month before the 
preliminary Proclamation was is- 
sued, Lincoln had written to Hor- 
ace Greeley these ever-memorable 
words : 

" If there be those who would not save the 
Union unless they could at the same time 
save slavery, I do not agree with them. If 
there be those who would not save the Union 
unless they could at the same time destroy 
slavery, I do not agree with them. My para- 
mount object is to save the Union, and not 
either to save or destroy slavery." 

It argues nothing against Lin- 
coln's sincerity that when he wrote 
the words above quoted, the draft 
of the great Proclamation was ly- 
ing in his desk awaiting only a 
Union victory to precede its issu- 



ance, in order that it might not 
seem to the public to be a mere des- 
perate expedient. Indeed, the stu- 
dent of Lincoln's writings cannot 
fail to see that at least as early as 
March, 1862 — fully five months be- 
fore he wrote this letter to Greeley 
— Lincoln had come to the conclu- 
sion that the War must in the end 
be given a turn that would destroy 
slavery, not merely to gratify his 
personal wish in the matter, much 
as he hated slavery, but because of 
the inexorable logic of events. 

On April 4, 1864, he wrote to A. 
G. Hodges these words, "I aver 
that, to this day, I have done no 
official act in mere deference to my 
abstract judgment and feeling on 
slavery. ' ' 



Lincoln was not an idealist. He 
was not one of those moral egotists 
who are wont to set their own scru- 
ples of conscience above statutes. 
By nature a conservative, he would 
not resort to revolutionary meas- 
ures imder guise of law. He was, in 
fact, the highest example of a con- 
stitutional ruler. When the hour 
came that emancipation might fair- 
ly be judged a military necessity, 
and when the public opinion of the 
loyal States was ready to accept it 
as such, then, and not before, Lin- 
coln meant to strike slavery down. 
The time at length came, and Lin- 
coln struck the blow which has re- 
sounded many times round the 
world; and thus what seems one of 
the most radical measures of Amer- 



ican history came, in fact, from one 
of the most conservative and cau- 
tious minds which ever ruled in our 

"DELIEVING firmly the time 
would soon come when eman- 
cipation must be proclaimed, Lin- 
coln had long been earnestly — al- 
most pathetically — urging the bor- 
der States to themselves adopt 
gradual emancipation and take 
compensation for their slaves. He 
procured the passage of an Act or 
Resolution by Congress under 
which they could have done this; 
and, in a Proclamation upon the 
subject, issued May 19, 1862, he elo- 
quently said: 

" To the people of these [border] States 
I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue — 



I beseech you to make the argument for 
yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be 
blind to the signs of the times. 
This proposal makes common cause for a 
common object. ... It acts not the 
Pharisee. ... So much good has not 
been done by one effort in all past time as 
in the providence of God it is now your high 
privilege to do. May the vast future not 
have to lament that you have neglected it." 

Again, to the Senators and Rep- 
resentatives of the border States, 
in July, 1862, he addressed a letter, 
in which, among other things, he 
told them the War would soon de- 
stroy slavery in their States "by 
mere friction and abrasion." He 
told them much of the value of 
slave property was already gone, 
and urged them to favor compen- 
sated emancipation; and then, with 
that terseness and force of which 



he was so great a master, he added, 
*'How much better for you, as 
seller, and the nation, as buyer, to 
sell out and buy out that without 
which the War never could have 
been, than to sink both the thing 
to be sold, and the price of it, in 
cutting one another's throats." 

It seems incredible, in the light 
of events, that such appeals to the 
good sense and the true interests 
of the border States could have 
fallen upon deaf ears, and the fact 
that Lincoln's border State policy 
was scoffed at alike by those it was 
intended to benefit and by those 
Northern idealists — such as Hor- 
ace Greeley and Wendell Phillips, 
who were always ready to burn 
other people upon the pyre of their 



immolatirig goodness — only serves 
to illustrate the deep intrenchment 
of slavery in the popular interest 
and prejudice. If Lincoln could, 
in the Spring of 1862, have wrested 
from all future sympathy with the 
Rebellion, those slave States which 
remained in the Union, by inducing 
them to voluntarily adopt emanci- 
pation, by that very act the great 
game would have been won. Had 
the one State of Kentucky heeded 
Lincoln's appeal and voluntarily 
abolished slavery, it would have 
been a moral blow more decisive 
than many military victories, 
which would indeed have shaken 
the Southern Confederacy to its 
very foundations. Lincoln saw this 
clearly, but his critics among the 



Northern radicals seemed utterly 
incapable of appreciating his "bor- 
der State policy." Greeley, about 
this time, said in the Tribune^ that 
when Lincoln prayed he said, "0 
Lord, I would like to have You on 
my side, but, Lord, I just must 
have Kentucky." Lincoln's great 
anxiety that citizens of the loyal 
slave States should receive pay for 
their slaves gave rise to Ralph 
Waldo Emerson's celebrated epi- 
gram, — 

" Pay the owner for the slave, 
And fill the bag to the brim ; 
Who is the owner? The slave is the owner 
And ever was ; pay him ! " 

Lincoln had always realized that 
to check the spread of slavery was 
a long step toward its abolition. In 



1858 he wisely said the country- 
must ultimately become **all one 
thing or all the other." The wise 
men of the South clearly saw this 
was true, and acted upon it. Had 
slavery from the first been freely 
admitted to all our new Territories, 
it would soon have become na- 
tional, and Robert Toombs might 
have fulfilled a threat he is said to 
have made, that he would some day 
call the roll of his slaves at the foot 
of Bunker Hill monument. On the 
other hand, had slavery been strict- 
ly confined to the area it occupied 
prior to 1820, emancipation would 
probably have come long before 
this time, even had there been no 



TN proclaiming freedom Lincoln 
is commonly thought to have 
reached the summit of his moral 
grandeur. The act was certainly 
great in itself, and equally great in 
the manner of its accomplishment. 
It was natural, however, that ad- 
mirers of the great anti-slavery 
agitators should dispute Lincoln's 
title to the historic credit for eman- 
cipation. Many thought Lincoln's 
Proclamation lost its moral grand- 
eur in the fact that it was issued 
under the force of military neces- 
sity, and thus became a mere inci- 
dent in the preservation of the 
Union. I must, however, dissent 
from this view, and insist that 
Abraham Lincoln's abolitionism 
did not lose its ethical quality in its 



respect for established law and in 
its well-tempered expediency. Any 
fool could shout and say slavery 
must be abolished, but it took a 
statesman to find a way to abolish 
it. The old abolitionists blew the 
reckless clarion blast which 
alarmed the Northern conscience 
and precipitated the conflict. The 
flashlight of their audacious and 
consuming eloquence fell upon 
slavery and revealed its enormity. 
But the man who marshalled and 
led the material and moral forces 
which finally crushed the Rebellion 
and destroyed slavery had need to 
be something more than a reckless 

Prominent in our War period, 
upon the Northern side, were many 



idealists, among whom some of the 
old '^higher law" abolitionists were 
the piu*est types. An idealist (to 
depart somewhat from the lexi- 
cons) is one who counts his chick- 
ens before the eggs have been laid. 
He is lacking in a sense of the pro- 
portion and relation of things, and 
takes himself so seriously that he 
loses the power of seeing the actual 
situation. In the last analysis he 
lacks humor. In the rapturous con- 
templation of the end he forgets all 
about means. The Northern ideal- 
ists, or radicals, thought that if 
Lincoln would only sound a great 
blast upon a ram's horn all the 
walls of the Jericho of Rebellion 
would fall flat. Acknowledging no 
responsibility, these men could talk 



much nonsense without having to 
account for the folly of their 

Lincoln, however, was President, 
and as such he felt gravely respon- 
sible to the country for his every 
act and word. He did not fly 
through the air with the theorists, 
but walked slowly and painfully 
upon the ground — and rough, in- 
deed, was his footing. He walked 
among the *' plain people," and 
communed with them day by day; 
and as he walked he took note of 
all the rocks and chasms and quag- 
mires which lay in his pathway — 
little matters, for which the mere 
theorists felt only contempt. 

The truth is, the old abolitionists 
had so long combated a majority 



upon the slavery issue that they 
could not appreciate the wisdom of 
a President who waited for the con- 
currence of a majority before act- 
ing. To Wendell Phillips the agi- 
tator, delivering a philippic against 
slavery, the approval of a majority 
was not necessary. His tempera- 
ment was such that the violent 
opposition of numbers acted upon 
him as a stimulant. But to Lincoln 
the President, formulating and en- 
forcing practical measures of gov- 
ernment for a sovereign people, the 
moral support of public opinion 
was an absolute necessity. Those 
who, almost before Lincoln's right 
hand was lowered, insisted that he 
should abandon the Constitution he 
had sworn to support, and resort 



to that vague delusion called the 
"higher law" — without any then 
apparent military necessity — had 
little appreciation of the man or 
the occasion. In the days of war 
most of these men went their own 
T\dld, unreasoning way, and heaped 
obloquy upon the man who was 
completing their work in the only 
possible way it could then have 
been completed. 

The distinct issue on which Lin- 
coln won the presidency was the 
prevention of the spread of slavery 
— not its abolition — and on that 
issue he received less than one-half 
of the popular vote, excluding from 
the calculation the votes of the 
States that afterwards seceded. 
However great may be the wonder 


J. I N C O L. N 

of it in the light of events, the fact 
is that a large majority of the 
whole American people stood, in 
1861, against Lincoln's moderate 
personal views on the slavery ques- 
tion. Out of twenty-three Chris- 
tian ministers residing in Spring- 
field, Illinois, in 1860, twenty were 
opposed to the election of Lincoln.* 
A quarrel between two factions of 
the Democratic party as to the par- 
ticular degree of legal encourage- 
ment slavery should receive in its 
struggle for territory and suprem- 
acy had resulted in Lincoln's elec- 
tion. No wonder he refused to at 

* This statement is based on the language of 
Lincoln himself, as Hon. Newton Bateman, then 
Superintendent of Public Instruction in Illinois, 
reported to Dr. J. G. Holland. — Holland 's ' ' Life 
of Lincoln," page 236. 



once launch an emancipation policy 
when even his own moderate prin- 
ciple of slavery- restriction could 
scarcely be sustained. 

Lincoln was acquainted, perhaps 
better than any other public man, 
with that prejudice which in those 
days often led even good Union 
men, in the Western States, to de- 
clare they would not support an 
"abolition war." He knew many 
good friends of the Union believed 
that emancipation would be fol- 
lowed by a horrible war of races, or 
by a still more horrible amalgama- 
tion of whites and blacks. To such 
he held out his zealous but imprac- 
ticable scheme of colonizing the 
negroes in South America or 
Africa. It was exactly because Lin- 



coin's early associations had so 
thoroughly familiarized him with 
the prejudice which used to fairly 
shudder at sound of the then -cur- 
rent phrase "nigger equality" — 
nay, because he even partook in a 
degree of that prejudice himself — 
that he proved the fittest man to 
stand at the helm. 

Lincoln thrust forward the 
Union issue because he knew there 
Avere at least twenty men in the 
North for the Union where there 
was one for emancipation. The 
boast, early made, that a united 
South would be hurled against a 
divided North, was, upon the slav- 
ery question, fully realized. Lin- 
coln's party was distinctly pledged 
not to disturb slavery in the States 



where it existed, and the pro-slav- 
ery Unionist was as vehement in 
urging the sanctity of this promise 
as the Eastern radical was in de- 
claring that treason had put slav- 
ery beyond constitutional protec- 

When the Emancipation Procla- 
mation was at length issued it was 
bitterly assailed as a revolutionary 
subversion of the Constitution, and 
yet it is a remarkable fact, that 
none of his critics ever stated the 
legal case against emancipation so 
strongly or so well as Lincoln once 
stated it himself. To 0. H. Brown- 
ing, who scolded him for revoking 
Fremont 's Emancipation Procla- 
mation, on September 22, 1861, he 
wrote : 



"If the general needs them [the slaves] 
he can seize them and use them, but when 
the need is past it is not for him to fix their 
permanent future condition. That must be 
settled according to the laws made by law- 
makers, and not by military proclamations. 
The proclamation on the point in question is 
simply dictatorship. It assumes that the 
general may do anything he pleases : con- 
fiscate the lands and free the slaves of loyal 
people as well as of disloyal ones. And going 
the whole figure, I have no doubt, would be 
more popular with some thoughtless people 
than that which has been done. But I can- 
not assume this reckless position nor allow 
others to assume it on my responsibility. 
You speak of it as being the only means 
of saving the government. On the contrary, 
■ it is, itself, a surrender of the government. 
Can it be pretended that it is any longer the 
government of the United States — any gov- 
ernment of Constitution and laws — wherein 
a general or President may make permanent 
rules of property by proclamation? . . . 
What I object to is, that I, as President, 
shall expressly or impliedly seize and exercise 
the permanent legislative functions of the 



This whole letter to Browning is 
most interesting in a study of the 
development of the emancipation 
policy, and should be compared 
with his Proclamation annulling 
the emancipation edict of Gen. 
Hunter, eight months later, May 
19, 1862. In the latter he says; 

"Whether it be competent for me, as 
Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, 
to declare the slaves of any State or States 
free, and whether at any time, in any case, 
it shall have become a necessity indispensable 
to the maintenance of the government to 
exercise such supposed power, are questions 
which, under my responsibility, I reserve to 
myself and which I cannot feel justified in 
leaving to the decision of commanders in the 

Here was a distinct advance upon 
the position announced in the 
Browning letter. He had found 



the true basis for his emancipation 
policy, and only awaited the devel- 
opment of public opinion and the 
march of events. 

T INCOLN had the sense to keep 
his eye upon great facts and 
to reckon with large causes. He 
was sagacious enough to perceive 
that the supreme issue of the strug- 
gle was national preservation, and 
that this issue embraced the slav- 
ery question and all others. Gree- 
ley's silly advice to let the South- 
ern States **go in peace," and "Wen- 
dell Phillips' still more pictur- 
esque folly that we would ^* build a 
bridge of gold and pay their toll 
over it," could meet no favor in a 
mind so sane as Lincoln's. He 



knew if the government proved 
strong enough to cope with the Re- 
bellion it w^ould, in the end, prove 
strong enough to deal with slavery 
and ultimately abolish it by peace- 
ful means. He said in his Peoria 
speech, in 1854, ''Much as I hate 
slavery, I would consent to the ex- 
tension of it rather than see the 
Union dissolved, just as I would 
consent to any great evil to avoid a 
greater one. ' ' From this sentiment 
he never receded. 

Had the Southern people ac- 
quiesced in Lincoln's election and 
in the supremacy of his doctrines 
they would certainly have pro- 
longed slavery, and in the end, per- 
haps, have insured a liberal com- 
pensation for their slaves. But 



ultimately either slavery or the 
Union had to go down. 

T HAVE sometimes thought that 
Lincoln, with prophetic eye, 
saw the destruction of slavery from 
the very beginning, but with a pa- 
tience and self-control which find 
no parallel awaited the slow turn- 
ing of the mills of the gods. He had 
the large sense to perceive that the 
spirit of the times would in the end 
abolish slavery, and that to force 
the issue would only insure the suc- 
cess of the Confederacy. He rec- 
ognized a plan higher than human 
plans. He knew when he wrote 
the Greeley letter that the march 
of events had put it past human 
power to save slavery with the 



Union. He felt that a hand might- 
ier than his own was writing the 
doom of slavery upon the fiery war- 
cloud, and so believing, and so 
praying, too, he patiently accepted 
criticism, and even calumny — first 
from the extreme abolitionists and 
afterwards from the pro-slavery 
Unionists. He knew a premature 
expression, officially, of his belief 
that the War was destined to de- 
stroy slavery would probably take 
from the Union army a hundred 
thousand bayonets, and that this 
might turn the tide against the 
Union. Had the border slave 
States been repelled by the least 
rudeness of treatment from the ad- 
ministration, the Union would 
probably never have been saved. 



Lincoln himself put the case tersely 
when he said of the border States, 
"With them against us, the job is 
too big for us." Realizing that 
public opinion was the only effect- 
ive abolitionist, Lincoln stayed his 
pen, and allowed the Union volun- 
teers to write with their bayonets, 
in the blood of angry battles, the 
real proclamation of freedom. He 
knew well that a proclamation so 
written would never need to be 

T N the Spring of 1861 there were 
many persons in the North who 
saw in Lincoln only a well-mean- 
ing, shrewd, but inexperienced per- 
son, whose redeeming trait, they 
hoped, would prove to be docility. 



Each of these persons felt sure 
Lincoln would need much sage ad- 
vice, and expected to supply it, 
and even to largely control his 
administration. These self-ap- 
pointed guardians were unprepared 
to receive a national saviour from 
the Nazareth of the prairies. They 
at once began telling Lincoln what 
to do, and it has been aptly said 
he received worse advice, and more 
of it, than any statesman that ever 

This will not seem wonderful 
when we remember how utterly 
the sudden rending of the Union 
had dazed the American people. 
In the confusion of that awful crisis 
even wise men said and did silly 
things. William H. Seward — cer- 



tainly a wise statesman , under 
ordinary conditions — in the face 
of threatened civil war lost both 
heart and judgment, and gave Lin- 
coln some very bad and startling 
advice. Chase marred his other- 
wise splendid record with queru- 
lous carpings, all through the War, 
against a chief he did not in any 
degree understand and whose su- 
perior he felt he was. 

That Lincoln, inexperienced as 
he was, ''kept his head" through 
the panic of timidity, distrust, and 
hysteria which marked the early 
months of his administration, gent- 
ly but firmly resisting the bad 
advice which came to him from so 
many high sources, is one of the 
ptrongest proofs of the firm texture 



of his mind. To keep on good 
terms with advisers of assumed su- 
periority and at the same time not 
take their advice, requires great 
shrewdness and tact, and no states- 
man ever knew better how to do 
this than Lincoln. He was too 
great to stand for a moment upon 
mere pride of opinion. He was al- 
ways ready to hear advice, but his 
ultimate monitor was within. He 
said, "It is my duty to hear all, but 
at last I must, within my sphere, 
judge what to do and what to for- 
bear." This self-reliance, in prac- 
tice, gave mortal offense to many 
prominent Republicans, who could 
never bring themselves to admit 
that the basis of it was real su- 
periority, and not arrogance. 



Lincoln was ruling a democracy, 
and to rule a real democracy in- 
volves problems never thought of 
by such rulers as Caesar, Cromwell, 
and Napoleon. He had a great 
military problem, and this was 
complicated with a still more per- 
plexing political problem, to say 
nothing of the other problems that 
were presented by our foreign re- 
lations. An early blow at slavery, 
it was thought, would assist us 
with foreign countries, but Lin- 
coln knew such a move would set 
our domestic politics awry. His 
first wise thought was to keep the 
peace among all the adherents of 
the LTnion, and the wise desire to 
do this furnishes the key to his 
whole policy. He recognized no 



line of political cleavage save that 
between the loyal and the disloyal. 
He often spoke of '* balancing mat- 
ters," and no man ever knew bet- 
ter than he how to strike the pru- 
dent average. 

If any man in this world ever 
understood that capricious thing 
called "public opinion" that man 
was Abraham Lincoln. He watch- 
ed the cmTent of public thought 
and prejudice as intently as a cau- 
tious pilot watches the face of a 
river for evidence of bars and 
snags. It has been well said that 
he possessed a wonderful sixth 
sense for the feeling of the average 
American. He caught the faintest 
sound which presaged a storm of 
popular passion, and the sagacity 



and skill with which he avoided 
the numberless eddies and whirl- 
pools of the slavery question, while 
steering on to the great end of na- 
tional preservation, have, in my 
judgment, never been equalled in 
the field of statesmanship. Lin- 
coln's exquisite sense of humor 
played an important part in saving 
the Union. It kept him from doing 
foolish things. He told a delega- 
tion of Chicago ministers who came 
to inform him that it was ''God's 
will" that he should at once launch 
an emancipation proclamation, that 
such a measure would be like the 
Pope's Bull against the Comet, be- 
cause it would have no force be- 
yond the military lines, and it 
would remain to enforce it by put- 



ting down the Rebellion just as he 
was striving to do. He thus antici- 
pated the very criticism that was, 
in fact, made in the English news- 
papers when the Proclamation was 
issued: namely, that the President 
had assmned to abolish slavery 
everywhere except in the territory 
w^here he could have abolished it, 
and had let it alone in the territory 
subject to his jurisdiction. 

The great Proclamation was 
wisely withheld until the extreme 
anti-slavery element in New Eng- 
land was ready to break from the 
vanguard of the Union column, and 
thus it came late enough in the evo- 
lution of public opinion barely to 
save to the cause the still more im- 
portant rear- guard in the border 
and Western States. 



^HUS we see that it was a main 
feature of Lincoln's states- 
manship that he distinctly compre- 
hended his problem; and not only 
his one great problem, but all its 
minor related problems. Such was 
the clearness of his vision, such 
the breadth of his views, such the 
grasp and sanity of his judgment, 
that within his policy all things 
found their proper place and rela- 
tion, and all the din and smoke of 
terrific conflict could not confuse 
him or put him from his purpose. 
To use an illustration of his own 
kind, he never went snipe-shooting 
when there were bear in sight. 

Lincoln succeeded in holding the 
border slave States in line upon the 
paramount Union issue even while 



the institution of slavery, which 
they wished to save, was being 
trampled to death beneath the feet 
of the Union army. He played the 
eager Union sentiment of the West 
against the institution of slavery, 
which had caused the War, until 
the West finally came to agree with 
New England that slavery must be 
struck down. In other words, Lin- 
coln bridged with his policy the 
vast stretch of opinion which lay 
between the rabid abolitionism of 
the East and the pro-slavery 
Unionism of the Western and bor- 
der States, and thus he was at last 
able to hurl the whole force of 
Union sentiment on this side of the 
battle line against the armies of 
the Confederacy. 



A task so complex called for a 
statesman of broad views, great 
self -poise, iron endurance, and sub- 
lime courage — courage to act, and, 
even in a greater degree, courage 
to forbear. Struggling, like Lao- 
coon, in the serpent-coils of the 
slavery complication, stung by the 
wasps of incontinent radicalism, 
hectored by swarms of Northern 
men who set the letter of the Con- 
stitution above the nation's life, 
Lincoln yet had the monumental 
patience and foresight nearly al- 
ways to do and say the wise thing. 
^^The occasion is piled high with 
difficulty," said he, **and we must 
rise with the occasion." 



T INCOLN'S search for a gen- 
eral was long and painful and 
at first quite as fruitless as that of 
Diogenes for an honest man — and 
he carried a better lantern, too. A 
few military victories would have 
cleared the atmosphere, but when 
Lincoln asked his generals for vic- 
tories they tried to swap jobs with 
him, and gave him advice on the 
slavery question. McClellan, just 
after fleeing in panic from the 
Chickahominy with a magnificent 
army, which under another com- 
mander might have bivouacked in 
the Confederate capital, found time 
to write Lincoln a lengthy letter of 
general advice, in which, among 
many other impertinences, he said 
' ' the abolition of slavery must not 
be thought of." 



On the other hand, two or three 
of the lesser generals in the field, 
who, it must be said, were not par- 
ticularly formidable to the com- 
mon enemy, sought the cheap ap- 
plause of the unthinking by issu- 
ing proclamations of emancipation 
in their military districts, thus 
adding to the embarrassments of 
the one great, patient man who 
saw all the phases of the Union 

T T is quite the fashion to say that 
previous to 1860 Lincoln had 
not shown the qualities of politi- 
cal leadership, and that his nomi- 
nation for President was merely a 
happy accident of politics. Pro- 
fessor Von Hoist, in his "Consti- 



tutional History of the United 
States,'' lias refuted this error. 
Lincoln's nomination was no acci- 
dental honor, won by superior man- 
agement over the real leaders of 
the party. In the great revolt of 
1854 against the conspiracy to 
open up new territory to slavery, 
though less officially conspicuous 
than Seward, Lincoln soon proved 
himself the most sagacious leader 
of the new party. Lincoln's action 
in one conspicuous party crisis re- 
futes, once for all, the notion that 
he drifted helplessly with the tide 
and was not a party leader. 

When Senator Douglas, at the 
Winter session of 1857-8, broke 
with President Buchanan, and 
made his brilliant fight in the 



Senate against the admission of 
Kansas as a slave State under the 
fraudulent Lecompton Constitu- 
tion, many prominent anti- slavery 
men were dazzled by the political 
pyrotechnics of the ** Little Giant." 
Douglas actually hypnotized some 
of his former antagonists into the 
belief that he was fighting their 
battles for them. Horace Greeley 
accepted him as a new Moses, and 
advised the Illinois Republicans to 
support him for reelection to the 
Senate. Seward prudently said 
nothing publicly, but he was well 
known to be ready to acquiesce in 
the leadership of Douglas and in 
his reelection. He, indeed, made a 
speech in the Senate virtually 
waiving the vital Republican prin- 



ciple, "No more slave territory." 
Politics never made stranger bed- 
fellows than when the "Free- 
soilers" of New England were 
found sympathizing with Douglas 
in his contest for reelection. 

It was Lincoln who saw clearly 
that for the Republicans to sup- 
port Douglas for the Senate would 
be a practical surrender upon the 
slavery question. He declared that 
the issue was deeper than "the 
mere question of fact" whether or 
not a particular Constitution for 
Kansas had been legally adopted 
by the voters. He showed the Re- 
publicans that the man who had 
repeatedly declared he did not care 
"whether slavery was voted down 
or voted up" in Kansas, just so the 



vote was fair, could not be safely 
entrusted with the ark of the Re- 
publican covenant; and when 
Douglas returned to Illinois in tri- 
umph to receive the plaudits of his 
admirers, Lincoln promptly chal- 
lenged him to mortal political 

In the great debate which fol- 
lowed, Lincoln exhumed from out 
the clap-trap and rubbish in which 
sophistry sought to envelop it, the 
essential moral question of that 
great controversy. In his speech 
at Springfield, June 16, 1858 — the 
greatest political speech ever de- 
livered in this country — he boldly 
proclaimed the startling truth that 
we had come to the crisis where 
the country must choose, once for 



all, between freedom and slavery 
as a permanent national policy, or 
else see the "divided house" topple 
down. This was more than four 
months before Seward proclaimed 
the "irrepressible conflict" in his 
Rochester speech. The master 
feats by which the "Little Giant" 
hoped to save his popularity in the 
North, without quite ruining his 
political prospects in the South, 
came to a speedy end before the 
keen and searching logic of his 

When Lincoln was defeated for 
the Senate, as his friends warned 
him would be the case upon so radi- 
cal a platform as he had made for 
himself, he accepted the result with 
the complacency of a true philoso- 



pher. He knew that while he had 
lost his battle he had not lost his 
principles. Nay, he knew he had 
laid the foundations of ultimate 
success for the cause of freedom. 
He had done more than this; he 
had proved himself the most saga- 
cious and fearless leader of the new 
party, by true merit and service 
raised to that great eminence. 

Equally absurd is it, in my judg- 
ment, to say that after this great 
debate with Douglas, in 1858, Lin- 
coln was an ' * unknown man. ' ' His 
antagonist was the most noted man 
in the politics of that day. It was 
not without reason that he was 
called a *' giant," for a giant, in- 
deed, he was in point of political 
shrewdness, force, and audacity. 



The newspapers took note of every 
move of the great Illinois Senator, 
and Lincoln's temerity in challeng- 
ing him excited wonder. The de- 
bate was, of course, followed in- 
tently by every man who paid any 
attention whatever to political af- 
fairs. However obscure Lincoln 
may previously have been, his con- 
flict with Douglas brought him into 
the very focus of public attention. 
Lincoln's great plainness and 
simplicity of speech and argument 
won upon all who heard or read 
what he said. He never talked 
''over the heads" of his hearers. 
His were the argmnents against 
slavery which found lodgment in 
the minds and hearts of the com- 
mon people. His speech at Peoria, 



October 16, 1854; his speech at 
Springfield, June 16, 1858; his de- 
bates with Douglas, and his speech 
at Cooper Institute, New York, 
February 27, 1860, are easily the 
masterpieces of all the anti-slavery 
literature preceding the War. In 
them are the body and the blood of 
the republicanism of that day. In 
them Lincoln made the platform 
whereon he won the battle for 
slavery - restriction. * 

Furthermore, Lincoln was not, 
at any period of his career, of that 
easy-going temper which runs with 

* I do not include the celebrated ' ' lost speech ' ' 
delivered by Lincoln at the Bloomington Conven- 
tion, May 29, 1856, because, while we know that 
speech greatly moved his auditors, we do not know 
what he said. I have never believed Whitney's 
alleged reproduction of that speech to be genuine. 



the tide. While he was President 
some thought he drifted aimlessly, 
but in fact he sailed the ship. His 
strong hand was always upon the 
helm, but he had sense enough to 
know that the ship could not be 
sailed against wind and tide. 
When he met baffling weather he 
knew how to tack. He could even 
seek a temporary haven and wait 
for fair winds, but he never turned 
back or abandoned the journey. 
He knew there was time for all 
things, and he never acted under 
the influence of panic. He bided 
his time, and with a patience as 
deep as nature, as unfailing as des- 
tiny, he awaited events. 



'T^HE most conspicuous personal 
quality of Lincoln, as I see 
Mm, is manly strength — a self- 
confidence, heroic but unexpressed. 
To me, Lincoln seems on great oc- 
casions a solitary man, communing 
with himself — never, indeed, arro- 
gant; not by any means always see- 
ing his way through to the end, but 
believing, with much confidence, 
that he saw as far as any, and yet 
prudently concealing, in large de- 
gree, the confidence he felt in the 
correctness of his own views. I am 
aware few took this view of Lin- 
coln in his lifetime. The extreme 
good-fellowship of his lighter hours 
seems to disprove it; and so many 
incidents are current showing his 
tenderness of heart — such as his 



strangely intense and emotional 
letters to Joshua Speed, and the 
alacrity with which he is said to 
have pardoned condemned soldiers 
against the protests of his gener- 
als — that the world is in danger 
of concluding that Lincoln's chief 
side was his emotional side and 
that there was in him no iron. 

That he was gentle, merciful, 
kind, and tolerant, that he was 
above petty resentments, and al- 
ways ready to cover the faults of 
his fellows with the mantle of 
charity, no one will deny. But 
these qualities were not incom- 
patible with strength of character. 
To be firm and enforce one's pur- 
pose it is not necessary to be a 
tyrant, and what seemed weakness 



in some of Lincoln's public acts was 
often the result of prudence and 
sound judgment. For instance, I 
doubt whether Lincoln ever set 
aside a death sentence when it was 
not good policy to do it. We have, 
I hope, gotten far past the barbar- 
ism of shooting a soldier boy to 
death for sleeping at his post, and 
Lincoln had too much sense to ap- 
prove such a sentence though his 
heart had been harder than stone. 
Convictions for offences which in- 
volved a betrayal of the cause, or 
those evincing great moral turpi- 
tude, he could approve without a 
qualm, and he did approve many 
sentences — the conviction of Fitz 
John Porter being the most con- 



T NOW go a step further, and say 
that Lincoln was a great ruler 
of men; and the man who has 
learned to rule others must have 
begun by learning to rule himself. 
Lincoln, contrary to current belief, 
was capable of great, righteous 
wrath, and sometimes of terrific 
anger, but his wonderful self-con- 
trol ordinarily enabled him to con- 
ceal the storms of passion that 
must often have rent his soul 
throughout the trying days of the 
War. He never blustered; his 
method of ruling was not so crude. 
Nor was he one of Gratiano's men, 
whose visages — 

"Do cream and mantle like a standing pond, 
And do a willful stillness entertain 
With purpose to be dressed in an opinion 
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit, 
As who should say, 'I am Sir Oracle. ' " 



On the contrary, Lincoln was al- 
ways simple, natural — almost boy- 
ish. He disdained all owlish shows 
of superior wisdom. He was per- 
fectly willing that the men he ruled 
should believe they were ruling 
him. He did not fear that some 
upstart would cheat history and 
wear his laurels. Referring to the 
capital way in which he got along 
with Senator Sumner, he said, with 
a sly twinkle in his eye, "He thinks 
he manages me." I think Lincoln 
knew that he was building for eter- 
nity, but with a serene confidence 
he committed to time the keeping 
of his matchless fame. Secretary 
Stanton, according to one account, 
raised his hand above the Presi- 
dent 's body a moment after he had 



breathed his last, and said, "There 
lies the greatest ruler of men that 
has ever lived." Great testimony 
is this, coming from Stanton. 

A VERY great man is elemental. 
He is, so to speak, a grand di- 
vision of nature. We now see that 
Lincoln's purpose and policy 
moved through the War with all 
the steadiness and certainty of a 
cosmic force. His patience under 
vast discouragements assumes the 
character of the patience of nature 
itself. His spirit was never ruffled 
by enmity or elated by vanity. 
When a little man is permitted to 
step suddenly from a puncheon 
floor to velvet he is apt to become 
giddy. The political "beggar-on- 



horseback," often met with under 
a popular government, generally 
thinks, with Jack Cade, that all the 
sewers are going to run red with 
claret because he is *'king." 
Though coming from a lowly es- 
tate, Lincoln seemed unconscious 
of his position as the first man of 
the nation. True to the class which 
produced him, he left no degrading 
apology for his breeding or the 
meagreness of his early conditions. 
His manliness was in his blood, and 
we now see that there was never 
taken to the White House a truer 
dignity of character, a more firmly- 
poised intellect, or a more intelli- 
gent self-reliance, than went there 
from the prairies of Illinois with 
Abraham Lincoln. 



'l^T'E have seen that Lincoln 
stands in American history 
first for national unity. We have 
seen that he stands also for liberty 
and the rights of man in subordi- 
nation to established law. We have 
seen him, strong as the ''unwedge- 
able and knarled oak," bending 
others to his purpose. We have 
also seen him exercising a wisdom 
and tact rarely found among the 
endowments of man. To all this I 
now add that he was the greatest 
popular leader that has appeared 
in our country. Out of the jungles 
of practical politics have grown but 
few oaks of statesmanship, but 
Lincoln w^as one of these oaks; and 
it is proper, I think, to call him a 
practical politician in the highest 



and best sense of that term. In 
this field, with the sole exception 
of Thomas Jefferson, he finds in 
our history no rival. He was pre- 
eminently the ^'man of the people" 
— not the demagogue who used the 
people for his purpose, but the 
statesman who served them and 
whom they recognized as their 
own. He led the people for the 
people's good, and not for his 
own personal aggrandizement. In 
Abraham Lincoln the spirit of de- 
mocracy was incarnate. What he 
called ''the plain people" loved 
him in life and have canonized him 
in death, for it is only the common 
people who can confer enduring 

So complete was Lincoln's belief 



in the intelligence and honesty 
of the American people that he 
never found it expedient to flatter 
them, but gave them always his 
honest thoughts. He did not reach 
the people secondarily, through the 
medium of local politicians, as is 
now too much the fashion, but 
established his political relations 
directly with every citizen of the 
Eepublic. He had no use for the 
political ''machine" of later days. 
The standard of Lincoln's judg- 
ment and feeling was level with 
every condition of American life. 
His communion with the masses 
was no condescending patronage 
but a genuine fellowship. He was 
at home everywhere; he perfectly 
understood ignorance and preju- 



dice; he had charity for them, but 
he never played the demagogue by 
appealing to them. The coarse- 
ness of the vulgar and ignorant did 
not shock him as it does many good 
men who have not had Lincoln's 
experience. The truth is that the 
life of this wonderful man meas- 
ures the whole vast distance be- 
tween the top and the bottom lay- 
ers of American society. He grew 
through all the strata, and at last 
flowered and bore fruit at the top. 
It has been well said that he lived 
all there was of American life, felt 
all there was of American experi- 
ence, and therefore in his character 
and life and work he fairly repre- 
sented and expressed the American 



T INCOLN was great enough to 
sink himself completely in his 
cause. The fact that Stanton had 
once treated him with professional 
discourtesy and had then lately 
criticised him in his own bitter 
fashion, was to Lincoln's mind no 
reason why Stanton should not be 
made Secretary of War, when it 
was deemed that his appointment 
would most aid the cause. It was 
the country Lincoln wanted served, 
not himself. The friends of Chase 
were surprised to learn, in that 
eminent man's appointment as 
Chief Justice, that his resignation 
of the Treasury, though petulant 
and ill-judged, had left no iron in 
the soul of the great President. It 
is now known that Lincoln said, 



with the resignation of Chase still 
in his hands unaccepted, that Chase 
should be Chief Justice if a vacan- 
cy arose.* 

A little earlier, when, through 
the publication of the "Pomeroy 
Circular," the fact came to light 
that Chase was scheming against 
his chief for the presidential nomi- 
nation in 1864, and Chase, in some 
confusion at the disclosure, offered 
his resignation, Lincoln wrote him 
these most wonderful words, 
"Whether you shall remain at the 
head of the Treasury department 
is a question which I will not per- 
mit myself to consider from any 
standpoint other than my judg- 

* Chittenden 's ' ' Eecolleetions of Lincoln and 
his Administration," page 380. 



ment of the public service, and in 
that view I do not perceive occa- 
sion for a change." Certainly this 
was not the letter of a mere poli- 

Only a President of great 
breadth could have written to 
Grant after the fall of Vicksburg, 
"I now wish to make a personal 
acknowledgment that you were 
right and I was wrong"; and it was 
Lincoln alone who, in the face of 
much bitter detraction, saved Gen- 
eral Grant to the cause and gave 
him the opportunity to finally 
crush the rebellion. He expressed 
the matter tersely, **I can't spare 
that man; he fights." 

liincoln's magnanimous treat- 
ment of Seward after that gentle- 



man had suggested Lincoln's prac- 
tical abdication in his favor, is now 
well known; and a still better illus- 
tration of the same spirit has come 
to light since the voluminous bi- 
ography by Nicolay and Hay was 
published. Just after the battle 
of Gettysburg, Lincoln thought 
that prompt pursuit and battle by 
Meade would destroy Lee's army 
before it could re-cross the swollen 
Potomac. Meade's delay and fail- 
ure to seize his great opportunity 
deeply grieved and annoyed the 
President, who finally sent a per- 
emptory order to forthwith attack 
Lee — which order was accompa- 
nied by perhaps the most remark- 
able note ever sent by a com- 
mander to his subordinate. It ran 



substantially thus : ' ' This order is 
not of record. If you are success- 
ful you may destroy it, together 
with this note; if you fail, publish 
the order, and I will take the 

But why recount such minor in- 
cidents to prove Lincoln 's unselfish 

* An autograph letter of the late James Har- 
lan, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, once Secretary of the 
Interior under Lincoln, written to the author, April 
17, 1897, ia conclusive authority for the statement 
in the text. He writes: " The President sent 
an order, privately, directing Gen. Meade to fol- 
low up his victory by an immediate attack on 
Lee's retreating army, and thus, if possible, pre- 
vent the re-crossing of the Potomac by the Con- 
federate forces, accompanied by a confidential 
letter authorizing him to make the order public in 
case of disaster and in case of success to destroy 
both the order and confidential letter. This much 
you may rely upon as historically true. Whether 
or not these papers ever reached Gen. Meade I 
am not able to say. I had supposed, prior to the 
receipt of your letter, that this incident had re- 
mained unknown for twenty years after the close 
of the War of the Kebellion to everybody except 
Gen. Meade, Eobert T. Lincoln, and myself." 



spirit, when it is well known he 
refused to take to himself the least 
credit for the act of emancipation'? 
He knew that the entire colored 
race, those living and those yet to 
come, grateful for the boon of free- 
dom at his hands, were ready to 
place his name among the immor- 
tals. He knew that the civilized 
world stood ready with a laurel 
crown for the emancipator of a 
race, and yet he could put that 
crown aside and say, *'I have not 
controlled events ; events have con- 
trolled me; God alone can claim it." 

T INCOLN had read in all chari- 
ty the secrets of the wonderful 
book of human nature, and had 
there learned to allow for the short- 



coinings of even enemies. He had 
too much breadth for bitterness. 
Passion never blew out the lamp of 
his reason, and from no lips ever 
came more gracefully the soft an- 
swer which turneth away wrath. 
He had the charity to say, "The 
Southern people are just what we 
should be in their situation." 
Though this man of mercy and 
gentleness was called by destiny 
to conduct a gigantic and cruel 
civil war; though he stood for years 
at the very storm-centre of an era 
of passion and hate ; though all the 
pent-up fury and rage of fifty years 
of bitter contention beat upon him, 
he left behind not a single bitter 
memory, and malice itself was 
disarmed before his great heart 



was cold. His utterances will be 
searched in vain for one harsh 
word against any of the Southern 
people, and it is as appropriate as 
it is touching that Confederate 
soldiers now come forward as his 
most eloquent and appreciative 

T INCOLN was not schooled or 
learned, but he was educated. 
He had endured all the agonies of 
complete mental discipline. The 
process of his education never 
ceased, but he spent no time learn- 
ing the wrong things. His mind 
was not clogged with useless lum- 
ber. His knowledge was all corre- 
lated, and his intellectual weapons 
were as keen as blades of Damas- 



cus. His facts were not numerous, 
but they were always ready for use. 
He had read men more than books, 
and it was with men — not books — 
he had to deal. He studied other 
men and he also studied himself. 
He cross-examined his own soul. 
His growth was evolution rather 
than acquisition. Botanists tell of 
a class of plants called the ''exoge- 
nous," which grow by taking on 
layers from the outside, and of 
another class called the "endoge- 
nous," which grow from within — 
from the heart. Lincoln, like the 
endogenous plant, grew from with- 
in. He expanded by the action of 
subjective moral and intellectual 
forces. His mind literally ' ' worked 
itself clear." In all classifications 



of humankind Lincoln will stand 
as an individual, akin to all classes 
but belonging exclusively to none. 

Lincoln had the best of legal 
minds, but fortunately he never de- 
generated into what Seward called 
a ' ' mere lawyer. ' ' He took the ker- 
nel and rejected the husk. Those 
who would appreciate his great 
grasp of constitutional questions 
must read his State papers and his 
letters wherein he discusses the 
war-power of the Executive over 
slavery and over the right of habeas 

This man had no extensive ac- 
quaintance with general literature. 
He told the artist Carpenter, who 

* It will pay well also to read Frederick Tre- 
vor Hill's book, " Lincoln the Lawyer," which 
was published since this paper was written. 



spent six months at the White 
House painting the Emancipation 
Group, that he never read a novel 
clear through. Scott, Thackeray, 
and Hawthorne wrote all their nov- 
els within the limits of Lincoln's 
lifetime, and in the same period 
Dickens wrote all but two of his; 
yet Lincoln appears to have known 
no more of these authors than he 
did of ^schylus or Homer. 

To a mind like Lincoln's, that 
which has actually happened in 
this world is far more interesting 
and far more dramatic than the 
mere dreams of fiction. In poetry 
he is known to have read Burns 
and Byron, and Shakespeare in 
part, and of the plays that he read 
he judged that ''Macbeth" was 



greatest. Mournful verses seemed 
to strike a chord in his heart, and 
he was not over -critical as to liter- 
ary quality. He had read and 
studied the Bible in the translation 
of King James, and the influence 
of its pure and simple style is 
everywhere apparent in what he 
wrote. Doubtless Lincoln knew, 
in outline at least, the history of 
other countries besides his own, 
but evidence of the fact is not pre- 
served in his writings. 

T N all the writings of Lincoln 
there are not to be found more 
than two or three allusions to the 
classic myths, nor did he often, 
if at all, point a moral by refer- 
ence to the history of Greece or 



Rome. In an early sophomoric 
production he barely mentioned 
the names of Caesar and Alexan- 
der. Once in a letter he referred 
to Procrustes and his fabled bed- 
stead, and sometimes he jocu- 
larly spoke of Stanton, his Sec- 
retary of War, as "Mars." Be- 
tween his nomination and election 
he read Plutarch's "Lives," in or- 
der to justify a statement made by 
Scripps in a campaign biography. 
If he ever read the rich mythology 
of Greece and Rome it made little 
impression upon him. Mercury, 
with winged feet, seems to have 
brought him no message from the 
gods of old. He heard not the 
thunders of Jove, the sobs of Niobe, 
nor the entrancing strains of Or- 



pheus' harp; and yet this man, 
unschooled and unlearned, grasped 
and solved the political problem of 
his country and his time. Joseph 
Jefferson, the actor, in his ** Auto- 
biography" (page 30) makes Lin- 
coln, in what he terms a ** har- 
angue" to the City Council of 
Springfield, Illinois, made in 1839, 
*' trace the history of the drama 
from the time when Thespis acted 
in a cart, to the stage of to-day." 
Those who have studied the style 
of Lincoln and know the range of 
his illustrations will be somewhat 
surprised to know that, in 1839, he 
took Athens, B. C. 600, as his start- 
ing point in persuading the city 
fathers of an obscure western town 
to repeal an unjust tax against 



players ! Mr. Jefferson probably in- 
troduced Thespis into this account 
through some substitution of the 
memory. Jefferson seems not to 
have known that Lincoln was him- 
self at the time in question (1839) 
a member of the Board of Trustees 
of the old town of Springfield. 
Whatever he did, therefore, must 
have been done in pursuance of his 
duties as such member and not as 
the attorney of Jefferson's father. 
But if Lincoln did not read wide- 
ly, neither did he read anything 
lightly. He never contracted men- 
tal indigestion by gorging his mind 
with literary sweetmeats. He read 
sound, strong things, and his men- 
tal grasp was wonderful. He never 
stopped until he had bounded a 



subject on all sides. He took noth- 
ing upon faith but would know the 
real truth, though he must, like 
doubting Thomas, thrust his own 
hand into the wound. The political 
history of the United States he 
knew in its minutest details, par- 
ticularly those portions relating to 
slavery, and his ability to interpret 
historic facts and events in a philo- 
sophic way has never been sur- 

Lincoln ^s logic was the joint 
product of honesty and common 
sense. He had the courage to know 
and to face the truth. He was will- 
ing to go whithersoever his best 
thought led him. He shared with 
all great and noble minds that high, 
unfaltering faith that the right 



must, in the end, trimnph. The 
closing sentence of his speech at 
Cooper Institute is the key to his 
whole life — **Let us have faith 
that right makes might, and in that 
faith let us, to the end, dare to do 
our duty as we understand it." 

T N point of literary merit Lin- 
coln's writings will bear com- 
parison with the best in the Eng- 
lish language. His literary style 
was as unique as his personality— 
as characteristic of him as the great 
nose on his face. He wrote Saxon, 
and demonstrated that a large vo- 
cabulary and an ornate style are 
not necessary to the forceful ex- 
pression of thought. He addressed 
himself first to the understanding 



and next to the heart. He was one 
of the greatest masters of the art 
of statement that has ever writ- 
ten the English tongue. He knew 
the som-ces of prejudice and the 
springs of action. Pathos and hu- 
mor are judiciously mingled in 
whatever he said and wrote. He 
it was who, with the hand of a mas- 
ter, at last lovingly touched the 
chords which again swelled "the 
chorus of the Union." He could 
put a chapter of argument into ten 
words of speech. 

A respectable volume could be 
filled with passages illustrating the 
strong, quaint style, apt illustra- 
tions, rare ^sopian wisdom, and 
— upon proper occasion — the pa- 
thos and eloquence, which abound 



throughout the sayings and writ- 
ings of Lincoln. 

No illustration was too homely 
to be used if it fitted the case. To 
Hooker, who had proposed to cross 
the Rappahannock at an inoppor- 
tune time, Lincoln wrote, "I would 
not take any risk of being entan- 
gled upon the river like an ox 
jumped half over a fence, and li- 
able to be torn by dogs front and 
rear, without a fair chance to gore 
one way or kick the other." 

Again, discussing a plan of cam- 
paign — with an apt but inimitable 
homeliness — he said, that if a cer- 
tain general could not "skin" he 
could ''hold a leg" for somebody 
else; and his pithy saying that 
"You can fool all of the people 



some of the time, and some of the 
people all the time, but you can't 
fool all the people all the time," 
has become an aphorism of Ameri- 
can politics.* 

In denying the broad charge 
made by Douglas that he was in 
favor of negro equality, Lincoln 
pronounced, and on several occa- 
sions repeated, his great definition 
of the negro's rights. "In the 
right," said he, "to eat the bread, 
without leave of anybody, which 
his own hand earns, the negro is 
the equal of myself, of Judge Doug- 

* An effort has been made to claim this saying 
for P. T. Barnum. Mr. Barnum 's authorship has 
not been proved, and there is at least one man of 
my acquaintance living, "of sound mind and 
memory," who heard Lincoln use that language 
in a speech at Bloomington, 111., as early as 1856. 



las, or of any other man." Again, 
speaking upon the same subject, 
he said, "I protest against the 
counterfeit logic which concludes, 
because I do not want a black 
woman for a slave I must neces- 
sarily want her for a wife." 

When Douglas proposed to set- 
tle the vexed question of slavery 
extension by "popular sovereign- 
ty," Lincoln quaintly said this 
meant, that "if any man chooses to 
enslave another no third man shall 
be allowed to object"; and the ef- 
fort to maintain both the Dred 
Scott decision and "popular sov- 
ereignty" at the same time he said 
meant, "that a thing may be law- 
fully driven away from a place 
where it has a lawful right to go." 



To a number of persons who 
called to remonstrate against his 
method of conducting the War, he, 
with some impatience, said : ' ' Sup- 
pose all you are worth was in gold 
and you had put it into the hands of 
Blondin to carry across Niagara — 
would you shake the cable, or keep 
shouting to him, 'Blondin, stand 
up a little straight er! Blondin, 
stoop a little more! Go a little 
faster! Lean a little more to the 
north! Lean a little more to the 
south!' No — you would hold your 
breath as well as your tongue, and 
keep your hands off until he was 
safe over. ' ' To another faultfinder, 
who thought Lincoln's measures 
too severe, he wrote, ''Would you 
drop the War where it is, or would 



you prosecute it with elder-stock 
squirts charged with rose water?" 

In reprimanding a young officer 
for quarrelling, he said, "Quarrel 
not at all. . . . Yield larger 
things to which you can show no 
more than equal right, and yield 
lesser ones though clearly your 
own. Better give your path to a 
dog than be bitten by him in con- 
testing for the right. Even killing 
the dog would not cure the bite." 

To his friend, Joshua Speed, he 
once said, ' ' Speed, die when I may, 
I want it said of me by those 
who knew me best, that I always 
plucked a thistle and planted a 
flower when I thought a flower 
would grow." 

He could be terribly severe with- 



out descending to scurrility. Al- 
luding to Douglas' "don't care" 
policy on slavery he said, "I sup- 
pose the institution of slavery 
really looks small to him. He is so 
put up by nature that a lash upon 
his back would hurt him, but a lash 
on anybody else's back does not 
hurt him." 

Replying to a committee of la- 
boring men who waited upon him 
with an address in 1864, he closed 
with these words, than which I 
know of nothing wiser or better in 
the English language : 

" That some should be rich shows that 
others may become rich, and hence is just 
encouragement to industry and enterprise. 
Let not him who is houseless pull down the 
house of another, but let him labor diligently 
and build one for himself, thus by example 



assuring that his own shall be safe from 
violence when built." 

T INCOLN was certainly not 
without personal ambition, 
and yet with only his own advance- 
ment as an object he would have 
lived and died in comparative ob- 
scurity. Had he been called to the 
bench he would have made a great 
and just judge, like John Marshall. 
It praises him to say that he could 
never have made himself famous 
except in a noble cause. Some have 
indulged in fruitless speculations 
as to what Lincoln would have been 
had he been differently educated, 
and as to whether or not, in later 
years, he would have added to or 
taken from his fame had not the 



cruel assassin struck him down. 
Putting aside such idle thoughts, 
we may well bow in devout thank- 
fulness that in the tide of time 
Lincoln came as a boon to our 
country; and our hearts may swell 
with a just pride that his career, 
from birth to final martyrdom, fur- 
nishes a most conclusive testimony 
to the value of our free institutions. 
What Washington had once been 
to the American Colonies, Lincoln 
proved himself to the American 
Nation. It has been said that the 
tears a good man staunches are 
shed upon his grave, and on Lin- 
coln's was certainly poured out a 
flood of the keenest popular grief 
which political history has known. 
Even as one revered as the Saviour 



of a lost world was born in a stable 
and cradled in a manger, so this 
Liberator of a race — this saviour 
of organized democracy in the 
Western world — first heard the 
lullaby of love in a rude frontier 
cabin, and, with the earth of a 
common humanity still clinging 
upon him, went forth to the agonies 
of martyrdom and fame. And there 
upon the sacred mount of service 
and suffering — behold, he, too, was 
transfigured before the nations! 
All the dross and contaminations of 
early environment at length fell 
away and left this lowly man of the 
people standing lofty, and serene, 
and spotless in the white light of 
history; and when that murderous 
pistol-shot at last stilled his tired 



heart and sped his weary soul to 
its reward, the sounds of bitter 
lamentation, coming in commingled 
strains alike from the palace and 
from the hovel, proclaimed but too 
truly that "our common manhood 
had lost a kinsman." 


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